Waste / Packaging Index (Guggenheim Lab Berlin)

Jul 22, 2012

A workshop together with Pablo Rey from Basurama in the Guggenheim Lab Berlin investigating the hidden processes and stories that are embedded in consumer products. We all know how our waste looks like, but often overlook that a large part of the waste we generate is invisible.

Lets say we buy an apple – sometimes wrapped in paper, sometimes not. But this paper is not the only waste generated in this transaction: we also have to count in the bag in which we carry it home, the paper towel that we use to dry it after washing; the crate that was used to store and transport it. In the workshop we will research and visualize this invisible dimension of everyday objects. Or consider a soda can: what is more valuable in terms of material – the content or the packaging? The packaging is recyclable, but what percentage of it is actually recycled? Are there alternative materials that would work better?

We try to answer these kinds of questions by dismantling and analyzing individual pieces of trash with the help of scales, barcode readers, open source databases and waste management data.

In doing so, we came up with a weight based Product-to-Waste-Index, that gives you the ratio of package material in comparison to the bought product content in a range from 0-1:

PWI = Weight Packaging / (Weight Content + Weight Packaging)

you can find the data that we generated here. A collection of links to data sources regarding waste composition, value, footprint and removal practices can be found here.

The outcome was physical visualization (containing video, data visualization or photos), where the “dissected” trash objects are arranged on a table surface, the statistics and findings are projected as graphics on top of the table augmenting these objects with additional information.